Punjab & Haryana HC Dismisses Petition Challenging Transfer of Candidates From Reserved to General Category

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A Single Judge Bench consisting of Hon’ble Mr Justice Harsimran Singh Sethi heard the case of Gurpreet Singh And Ors v. State of Punjab And Others via video conferencing.

A common order was passed for the bunch of Writ Petitions filed having similar questions of law, and a similar set of facts.

Facts of the Case

An advertisement was issued by the Recruitment Directorate of the Director Education Department, inviting applications from eligible candidates for direct recruitment to 1558 posts of Head Teachers, via online. The selection process involved a written examination which was conducted by the respondents, where the selection was based on the marks secured from the said written test, subject to the scrutiny of the documents of the eligible candidates. 

During the recruitment procedure, only 779 candidates were recommended for selection in the open general category, but 226 posts could not be filled since a large number of candidates were either declared ‘withheld’ or did not turn up for the process for consideration of their claim. 

One of the reasons for the non-availability of candidates for the 779 posts were that the candidates starting from the merit list no. 780 onwards were recommended by the Recruitment Board to be considered in the various reserved categories. In order to fill the 226 vacant posts, the reserved category candidates starting from merit no. 780, were shifted to the open general category. This act of shifting to the open general category, subsequently after the appointment in the open general category, was challenged by the petitioners. 

Contentions of the Respondents

The Respondents contended that keeping in view the well-settled position of law, the candidates who secured higher marks, who might have applied in the reserved category had to be considered to be appointed against the posts advertised for the general category as per their high merit. It was contended that this shift was perfectly valid and was in consonance with law.

Contentions of the Petitioner

Learned Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the Petitioner placed reliance on the case of Rajiv Mittal vs. Maharshi Dayanand University 1998 (2) SCC 402, and contended that candidates who were appointed under the reserved category cannot be shifted to the open general category in the second counselling, and the unfilled posts from the general category had to be filled from the same category. 

Court’s Analysis

The Court observed that it had to look into the subject as to how the appointments are to be made during recruitment in Order to solve the issue w.r.t whether candidates from the reserved category could be transferred to the open general category for filling the 226 vacant posts out of 779 posts.

The Court referred to the cases of:

  • Indra Sawhney & others v. Union of India 1992 Supp (3) SCC 212
  • Jaskaran Singh v. State of Punjab, 1995 (2) S.C.T 65
  • Ravinder Singh v. The State of Punjab, 2002
  • H.S. Grewal v. State of Punjab, 2001

That held “It is well to remember that the reservations under Article 16(4) do not operate like a communal reservation. It may well happen that some members belonging to, say, Scheduled Castes get selected in the open competition field on the basis of their own merit; they will not be counted against the quota reserved for Scheduled Caste; they will be treated as open competition candidates.”

The above principle was incorporated in the Information Brochure of the Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak which reads as: “A candidate who applies either for reserved category or for both reserved and open will be considered first in open category. In case he/she is not selected in open category, he/she will be considered for reserved category.”

The Court referred to the case of Rajesh Kumar Dariya Vs. Rajasthan Public Service Commission, 2007 (4) S.C.T, 99, where it was held that “Social reservations in favour of SC, ST and OBC under Article 16(4) are ‘vertical reservations’. Where a vertical reservation is made in favour of a backward class under Article 16 (4), the candidates belonging to such backward class, may compete for non-reserved posts and if they are appointed to the non-reserved posts on their own merit, their numbers will not be counted against the quota reserved for the respective backward class.”

Court’s Decision

The Court dismissed the Writ Petitions and held that no grounds were made out to interfere with the shifting of the reserved category candidates to the open general category so as to undo the illegality/irregularity committed by the Recruitment Board in the selection process. 

Further, the Court directed the Chief Secretaries to the State of Punjab, Haryana and the Home Secretary of the Union Territory of Chandigarh, to issue specific guidelines with regards to how advertised posts have to be filled up during the selection process in order to avoid similar controversies in future.


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